Frequently asked questions and helpful tips for clients of Gold Coast / Brisbane food photographer, Paul Williams:
Should we include images of our food in our menu?
Quality food photography for your menu benefits not just your customers, but also your staff and business.
BENEFIT FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS:
– Showing prospective customers exactly what your dishes look like, manages their expectations of both ingredients and portion sizes. This is particularly important in a tourist-saturated market such as the Gold Coast, because much of the food will be unfamiliar to foreigners.
In recent decades past, menu photographs lost popularity with fine dining establishments, though today, ‘long menus’ with food shots are being produced even for top restaurants due to the benefits enjoyed by diners who can see exactly what dishes are on offer.
BENEFITS FOR YOUR STAFF:
The benefits of menu photographs extend into the operations side of the business, as plate presentation can be referenced by your new kitchen staff. For instance, in your head chef’s absence, your kitchen staff can ensure the continuity of how your dishes are presented.
Do you have props that we can use for the shoot?
We have an extensive range of props to style your food and table with, which can be representative of either your venue or the food itself. From slate stone to wood and bone, we can also source that perfect platter, cooking utensil or table dressing that tells the story of your culinary creations.
Can I afford to invest in professional food photography?
Absolutely. Best-in-class eateries understand that you can’t afford to NOT invest in this. If just one of your local competitor’s does so by investing just a fraction of one night’s takings, they are assuring increased patronage to their restaurant for the entire season.
As your client, Paul, what do I need to prepare before the shoot?
A great place to start, is knowing what you need to use these shots for. For instance, you may only need them for a menu NOW, but it’s prudent to future-proof your needs by looking at your marketing plan and making sure we shoot suitable material for that poster, flyer or other collateral that you’ll need. This ensures that you’ll get the most mileage for your money.
A vital consideration for you will be the art direction. If you don’t have an Art Director or Graphic Designer working for you, you’ll need to settle on a very clear idea of how you would like the photographs to look. Lighting style, background, props, image proportions and how much excess image area needs to be shot to place text against (for example), all need to be ascertained prior to the shoot. I’m happy to recommend a highly competent Graphic Designer for you if needed.
Do we have to use your Food Stylist?
No. If you already work with a trusted Food Stylist, then I’m very happy to work with them for the day. However, if you don’t intend on working with a Stylist at all, please see the next question…
Do I really need a Food Stylist?
This is a team member that client’s are often tempted to exclude, to keep their costs down. While understandable, unless an incredibly talented and studio-experienced chef will be on site to style the food, opting to not contract a Food Stylist for your shoot can be a big mistake. Stylist’s not only know how to make the food look fantastic, but how to do so for the camera. Beyond this, the table styling is often what reiterates the essence of the food and is where the contemporary story telling is done. They have the experience, props, taste and trade tricks that allow the effective communication that both your food and brand need to move product. This is the sole reason why I don’t mark-up my Food Stylist’s fee. This helps keep him more affordable and encourages my clients to not pass over such an important team member who makes such a large contribution to their shoot’s success.
Do you shoot food packaging and products as well as raw/cooked foods?
Yes. I’ve shot many such things over the years, including a wide range of non-food industry products. Some samples may be viewed here.
Why shouldn’t I take my own shots on my phone for Instagram etc?
Let’s be clear. Amateur food photography looks as bad as amateur cooking can taste. This is the common pitfall that has seen countless social media campaigns fail, often followed by the business. Instagram filters are fun and effective, but food photography remains the exception to this rule. Meat dishes should not look like the animal died of jaundice. Moisture should not be overexposed so that no detail can be seen and the reverse holds true for shadow areas. Accurate colour and lighting handled by a professional photographer using professional gear, is vital.
Is there an easy way I can keep up with food trends?
Yes! You can follow any of my social media feeds for this purpose, and/or follow my blog’s RSS feed, which will share trends, tips, recipes and recent work.
What do you mean “…we show how your food tastes’?
We’ve all seen the food photography produced for McDonald’s burgers. Many feel that it’s misleading, once handed their horrific looking meal. But there’s a reason why shooting one McDonald’s burger takes 8-14 hours and they pay the best in the business TENS of thousands of dollars to shoot it. Because McDonald’s marketers have been doing it long enough to know that low quality photography results in low sales figures. This remains the unquestionable truth about food photography’s worth. Food Stylist’s and Photographer’s skills manage a customer’s expectations, even in this most extreme of examples that I’m giving. There is no greater example of ‘misleading’ food photography than the McDonald’s burger. Shooting the burger ‘as it comes to you’ in the restaurant however, would offer very little clue as to what’s actually in it, yet thanks to great photography, nobody is surprised about the content of the burger once they’ve bitten into it.
Do you retouch the photo’s that you shoot?
Absolutely. I retouch all photo’s that I shoot to ensure level and colour accuracy. I’ve been working with Photoshop since 1996, so can also cater to complex custom retouching requests.
What's the best way to market my venue in the digital age?
Social media has been a God-send to F&B businesses who have leveraged quality photography to draw customers to their restaurant. But it’s now more vital than ever, to have a professional photographer handle your food photography. Time has shown that updating your image content regularly keeps customers coming back, while referring new business to your venue by sharing images on social media.
Now your professional photography is really paying for itself via a team of unpaid, passive marketers. Fresh image content allows your followers to share beautiful images of your dishes – often while you sleep!
My social media is being taken care of. How will you add value or impact to this?
Investing in social media marketing without first investing in image content and content strategy is a guaranteed waste of your money. Image content for social media must be two things – of high relevance and constantly refreshed. F&B brands that understand this and engage with their industry, become best-in-class and generate followers that will promote their business, unprompted. Users will do so for as long as your social media feed is feeding their appetite for relevant updates accompanied by ongoing fresh imagery. This is why I position myself as more than a bi-annual photographer to my clients. Effective brands build relationships with support partners to maximise the benefits for both parties in an ongoing manner.
Can you really make my marketing more effective while saving me time and money?
Yes! When you hire a professional food photographer, you get a lot more than images that can simply be used as web and social media content. Professional photography equipment means that we can deliver BOTH high and low resolution images to you, inclusively. High resolution images allow you to provide quality images to magazines, publishers and even broadcasters when generating PR for your business. Design and advertising agencies also need to work with high resolution images when you place an ad (smart phone and consumer camera images will not be accepted). This is yet another reason why we encourage our clients to shoot their food professionally and save money in the long run, as the task only needs to be performed once.
Should I also photograph people such as my staff or patrons? And if so, why?
The hero of a cafe or restaurant should always be the food and drinks. But everybody loves a back-story and once tables are filling, smart food venues capitalise on generating PR around the hero’s working in the kitchen. A real cult of personality has arisen around chefs and restauranteurs. Beautiful portraiture characterises those responsible for the culinary creations that keep your venue busy and gives relatable personality to your brand. Importantly, images of customers should be professional lifestyle images to successfully separate your sleek marketing tools from your patron’s selfies.
Why are you my best choice of Food Photographer?
For starters (pardon the pun), this is my specialty. In 2015 I was shortlisted as the Pink Lady International Food Photographer of the Year in what has become the world’s most prestigious food photography awards. If you’ve read this far, you’re hopefully starting to get a sense that I know a little bit about brand positioning. Photography aside, I was a multi award-winning Graphic Designer for many years, specialising in branding. So I understand successful strategy that establishes and builds brands. This is why I partner with my clients and engage with their brand long after we’ve shot together. Being available to clients for advice on brand and marketing strategy keeps me engaged in both fields that I love and maximises my offering to my corporate and agency clients alike. I know of no other Food Photographer in Australia who can offer this background or insight.